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Shutting Down Your Ego: The Surprising Key to Career Triumph

Shutting down your ego: The surprising key to career triumph

How to stay creative and humble.

Adopt the beginner’s mindset. Acknowledging you don’t have all the answers allows you to be open to learning from others. Contrary to what your ego is telling you, it’s ok to admit you don’t have it all figured out. Not doing so prevents you from learning. Doing so builds trust with your colleagues, as they are more likely to trust someone willing to admit their limitations and desire to learn. Walk through a library or a book

store or browse online to create a list of books that pique your interest and are on a subject you know next to nothing about. Remind yourself how much you don’t know and establish a habit of seeking out new perspectives every chance you get.

Focus on the effort — not the outcome. By focusing on the effort, you can learn to appreciate the work that goes into achieving something, regardless of the outcome. Focus on what you can learn from the process of working toward a goal rather than solely on the result to cultivate a more humble and grounded approach to your work and support your personal and professional development. Show up every day as the best version of yourself and give 100%. Take a moment and define what success means to you. Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of knowing you made the effort to do your best. Doing your best is what matters. Focus on that. External validation, recognition, or rewards are just extra.

Talk is cheap, take action. Taking a new path, exploring a new direction, and building something from nothing are terrifying to most people. Are you talking a great game but avoiding the uncertainty of doing the difficult and sometimes frightening work required of any new or creative endeavor? It’s time to face the void and lean into the uncertainty so you can go places and accomplish things you never have.

Remain humble. When you are humble, you are more likely to listen to other people's ideas and opinions without feeling threatened and you are less likely to engage in conflicts or power struggles, which can derail your potential career advancement. Pursue collaboration, it allows others to lower their defenses. Isn’t it time you experienced a more peaceful work environment, where you can focus on your work without being distracted by interpersonal issues?

Know what matters to you and ruthlessly say no to everything else. Your ego thrives on external validation, which can lead to a cycle of saying "yes" to everything so that you don't disappoint anyone. You live your life according to everyone else's definition of success. But what is your definition of success? Have an honest conversation with yourself and understand your priorities. Then reject everything that does not align with them. First, learn how to say no to your ego that wants it all and can spread you too thin. And then set your boundaries with others so you can succeed in a way that is meaningful to you.

Fight through disappointment and get out of your safety zone. After experiencing a failure, your ego engages and you can spend your time being passive and ruminating. During failure your ego causes your mind to hone in on what you don’t want as well as feelings of anger, hurt, or disappointment. This mindset leads you to seek safety to lick your wounds. Don’t lean into these negative emotions. Choose to do one thing that puts you on a new path. Utilize every second to regain momentum. Just take one baby step. You don’t have to see the whole journey ahead; you just have to start moving in the right direction.

Get out of your own head. What is the soundtrack that is playing in your head? Is it an endless stream of self-aggrandization? Confront reality and do a real self-assessment. If you feel you are gifted, special, brilliant even, but your career is stagnant then honestly assess why you are stuck. If your current narrative says you are misunderstood and underappreciated, but you fail to take action, then get out of your own head and do something different to change your experience.

Let go of control. The need to control will eventually stall your progress. Appreciate and solicit the diversity of perspectives that surround you. Dive into projects with a collaborative spirit to build trust in the expertise of others. Ego says “It all must be done my way”. Remind yourself there is more than one way to accomplish most tasks. Letting go of control creates an environment where you never stop learning.

When you find yourself in a hole — stop digging. When your vehicle gets stuck in the mud, the worst thing you can do is continue to spin your wheels. If you find yourself in a negative position, the dare to make a full stop. Don’t make things worse. Don’t dig yourself further. As for help and make a plan.

Choose love. When wounded, your ego can turn a minor insult into a massive sore causing you to lash out. Remember, retaliation is escalation, and it doesn’t serve you. Don’t let criticism or unkind words or deeds eat at you — choose love. You will never be everyone’s favorite flavor of ice cream. It’s impossible. But that is ok. Choose love. Yes, love. See how much better you feel.

Pursue mastery in your chosen zone of genius. When you are operating in your zone of genius, you realize that the better you get, the humbler you are. You understand there’s always something you can learn, and you are inherently humbled by whatever fascinating area of focus you chose. Commit to never stop learning. It is hard to get a big head or become egotistical when you are appreciative of all you can learn from others.

Surround yourself with talent. Put yourself in rooms where you’re the least knowledgeable person. Sit at the table where talent abounds. Always stay a student and observe and learn. That uncomfortable feeling, that defensiveness that you feel when your most deeply held assumptions are challenged? Do it deliberately. Let it humble you.

Stop playing the image game — focus on a higher purpose. Set goals and focus on accomplishments. Don’t obsess over the title or size of your paycheck, instead chose to focus on tangible achievements. Titles come and go, your legacy will be your contributions and the impact you had.

Focus on the effort — not the results. As a small business consultant, I was often frustrated when I presented my findings to management on how to fix their problems, and they adopted “some” of the proposed solutions. Was I not clear? Do I need to present my findings again? Perhaps say it louder? When I mentioned this to my mentor, he gave me the best advice I have ever received in my career. He said “Your job is to speak your truth. What the other party does with it is out of your control.” Your job is to plant the seed by giving advice and sharing your knowledge and insights. If your proposed solutions are not adopted 100% right now, there is a high likelihood they will be adopted over the course of the next 3-5 years. If you can accept that you control only the effort that goes in and disconnect from the results, you will be mastering your ego. All work leaves our hands at some point. The ego wants to control everything — but it cannot control other people or their reactions. Focus on your end of the equation, leave them to theirs.

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